Step Eight

"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all."

I knew the first part of this step would be fairly simple. After all, I had already written down all my resentments and the harm I had caused others when I did my fourth step inventory. However, when listing these people in the context of making amends to them -well, I sort of lost my footing. My initial reactions went something like this: well, he treated me worse than I treated him or that was so long ago I'll just look like a fool for bringing it up; it's all water under the bridge or she never even knew what I did so I never really harmed her. That sort of thing. They were mostly rationalizations of course. I was avoiding the serious work ahead of me. And my procrastination lasted several months. Time passed but I wasn't moving forward spiritually. Eventually I saw through the denial. The truth was simple: I was not yet willing.

How does one become willing? I wanted to be willing but I wasn't. Should I have made the amends anyway? Personally, I think our heart has to be in the right place or the words are empty. To find the willingness I had to overcome my pride, confront some lingering resentments and practice humility. I don't think this is a time to be hasty. There were a few amends I became willing to make that eventually, through prayer and talk with my sponsor, proved to be inappropriate. That was a good lesson for me: just because I am willing to make the amends (and would prefer to do so in hope of receiving some healing and easing my guilt), doesn't mean it is in the receiver's best interest. I like to think that the healing could be a two-way street -that my amends would bring relief to the person I had harmed -but that isn't necessarily true. For my amends to be a true act of reconciliation I must hold the other person's welfare above my own. Perhaps, at this time, the most loving thing I can do is leave that person alone. But my willingness is still to be acknowledged and perhaps in Step Nine I can find another way to offer some restitution for my wrongs.

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